Mapping and characterization of the Xlsirt P11 RNA cis-acting localization element

Luetta Ann Humphries Allen, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


In many organisms, polarity of the oocyte is established post-transcriptionally via subcellular RNA localization. Many RNAs are localized during oogenesis in Xenopus laevis, including Xlsirts ( Xenopus laevis short interspersed repeat transcripts) [Kloc, 1993]. Xlsirts constitute a large family defined by highly homologous repeat units 79–81 nucleotides in length. Endogenous Xlsirt RNAs use the METRO (Message Transport Organizer) pathway of localization, where RNAs are transported from the nucleus to the mitochondrial cloud in stage I oocytes. Secondly, RNAs anchor at the vegetal pole in stage II oocytes. Exogenous Xlsirt RNAs can also utilize the Late pathway of localization, which involves localization to the vegetal cortex during stage III of oogenesis and results in RNAs anchored in the cortex of the entire vegetal hemisphere. The Xlsirts localization signal is contained within the repeat region. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that there are cis -acting localization elements in Xlsirts, and that higher order structure plays a role. Results of experiments on Xlsirt P11, a 1700 basepair (bp) family member, led to the conclusion that a 137-bp fragment of the repetitive region is necessary and sufficient for METRO and Late pathway localization. This analysis definitively demonstrates that the Xlsirt localization signal for the METRO and Late pathways reside within the repetitive region and not within the flanking regions. Analysis of Xlsirt linker scanning mutations revealed two METRO-pathway specific subelements, and one Late-pathway specific subelement. Functional, computer, and biochemical evidence relates the higher order structure of this element to its ability to function as a localization element. Xlsirt 137 is 99% identical to the Xlsirt consensus sequence identified in this study, suggesting that it is the localization element for all localized Xlsirt family members. The repeat unit was reframed based on function, rather than arbitrarily based on sequence. This work supports the hypothesis presented in 1981 by George Spohr, who originally isolated the Xlsirts, which stated that the highly conserved repetitive elements must be constrained from variability due to some unknown function of the repeats themselves. These studies shed light on the mechanism of RNA localization, linking structure and function.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Allen, Luetta Ann Humphries, "Mapping and characterization of the Xlsirt P11 RNA cis-acting localization element" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3017533.